Work & Co, UX Collective
Photo Credit: Emily Knight
He’s the Design Director at Work & Co based in Brooklyn, NY., Founder of UX Collective and probably the guy that designed or wrote that thing you liked. Oh, and he’s also a big believer in user-centered design and knowledge sharing.
Please join me in welcoming Fabricio Teixeira to The Innovation Series, Welcome Fabricio! It’s very nice to meet you and thank you very much for your time.
Fabricio: Thanks for having me.
Randy: I have to start here because I am super-curious. From what I can tell, you do more in a day than the average person does in a week. Between your day job at Work & Co., curating the UX Collective, writing, contributing to associations, judging awards, receiving awards… the list goes on and on. How do you make time to do all of the things you do, and how do you choose which ideas to go after?
Fabricio: I have robots working for me. Just kidding. Although days are busy, I feel incredibly energized when I’m designing, writing, or producing things. I like to think of myself as a pretty organized and pragmatic person. Life is short. Legacy is all you can own. Everything else is noise and will be forgotten. I try not to spend time with anything that won’t add value to the people around me and/or to the world. Which means I have to say “no” to many things as well — but isn’t prioritizing what’s important what Design is all about?
Randy: The COVID-19 global pandemic has definitely changed the way we work forever. In fact, it’s changed the way the whole world works. How do you think the product design craft will evolve as a result?
Fabricio: First and foremost: I feel digital designers are incredibly lucky to be able to, in most cases and more than in other professions, continue to work remotely while keeping their loved ones and their communities safe.
In my view, that transformation you are referring to will happen at 3 different levels.
At the design craft level, we might start to see an increase in cleaner aesthetics and simpler products. Not only because “cleanliness” is the most sought after sensation right now at a human level, but also because the constant fear we are all going through as individuals is making us prioritize what’s really important in life. This naturally ladders up to simpler, more focused, more minimal products and experiences.
At a team level, we will come out of this crisis stronger, faster, and better collaborators. We cannot rely on peers being in the same meeting room at the same time anymore. People who were not used to real-time collaboration tools (hi, Figma) and remote, decentralized work are adding that new skill to their tool belt. We are all becoming better at managing our time, collaborating asynchronously, and finding focus. Once you learn those skills, you’re unlikely to unlearn them.
At an industry level, companies need to act. They need to respond to the transformations happening around them. And they need to do it fast. Many organizations are now realizing they need better e-commerce experiences, mobile-optimized flows, contactless payment, curbside delivery, seamless digital services — and overall a more connected digital ecosystem that delivers on the fast-changing user needs in this day and age. Customer expectations are changing drastically, and we are never going back to where we were before the pandemic.
Randy: I have seen you say, “Real collaboration doesn’t have big reveals” and that “you talk to your clients almost every day”. I love this and try to encourage my team to do the same. However, I do realize that there are situations where this is not always possible. Your client or product owner just might not be available (especially in larger organizations) as often as you need them to be. How can designers still provide a high level of transparency even when their customer isn’t available as often as they would like?
Fabricio: I think it’s less about expecting other people to be available at the same time as you are, and more about striving for radical transparency. Companies need to move fast to get things out in the world in a timely manner. This means we, design and product teams, need to be extremely transparent with one another — simply because we don’t have time for miscommunication.
Thankfully, we are all learning when to use each of the collaboration tools we have available. When to jump on a Zoom call versus when to communicate asynchronously (e.g. via Dropbox paper or Figma comments) versus when to work solo.
Some companies are better set up to be successful in this landscape than others. Work & Co has been operating at this level of transparency since its foundation, which explains our ability to launch so many digital products in the last few years. For designers, being transparent means letting go of their ego and acknowledging they don’t immediately have all the answers, but that they know how to find them.
Randy: In the State of UX in 2019 report, you spoke in-depth about how every designer is now a “Design Lead”. I couldn’t agree more. I’ve seen the role of design evolve immensely since I started all the way back in 2001, but many organizations have been slow to build the proper roles and career path for designers. What still needs to be done to make sure that designers, and the products they design, are both set up for success?
Fabricio: We need to allow designers to design.
A lot has been said about the importance for designers to “get a seat at the table” and be involved in more strategic conversations within our organizations to further the strategic impact of our work. To advocate for the business value design can bring.
But getting a seat at the table doesn’t mean we need to abandon our desks.
What I have seen (and thankfully being exposed to dozens of articles every week at the UX Collective allows me to get a good pulse of what’s happening in our industry) is that with the growth of digital teams, many designers have been forced into management positions and ended up abandoning what made them great professionals in the first place: their ability to design and solve design problems. When the only way to get higher salaries is to manage other people, you end up creating an industry where everyone is a manager (or aspires to be one) — and very few design problems actually get solved.
Companies that are paying attention to this have started to reimagine their internal structure: either by allowing designers to choose between manager vs. maker career paths, or by enabling designers (and researchers, and strategists, and writers) to continue to be hands-on the more senior they become.
Randy: There’s a huge push right now in the industry for designers to learn more about business. InVision published a book on it, there are a ton of Medium articles popping up, and there is even specific business training available for designers now. What are your thoughts on the rise of business-minded designer movement?
Fabricio: Knowing the business impact of the products we create, understanding how design decisions impact the bottom line and being able to speak the language of our stakeholders are extremely important skills to have if we want the products we design to actually see the light of day. Finishing up the design prototype is just half of the job. We then need to explain, defend, protect, test, adjust, adapt, document, convince, test again, learn, improve, push through — until we get to launch. Being a business-savvy designer is one of the most important skills to navigate that journey of shipping digital products and services. The beauty is: learning business doesn’t mean you need to forget how to design.
Randy: What top-secret project are you working on, that you have been waiting for this very special opportunity on The Innovation Series to unveil?
Fabricio: There are so many exciting initiatives I am working on right now. You’ll hear about them soon on my Twitter: http://twitter.com/fabriciot.
Randy: Good luck and thank you again for sharing your experiences on The Innovation Series. It's been great to have you!
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